Saturday, April 26, 2008

The South-East Oil Crisis

Kunz woke up at 12 noon - he likes to sleep late on Sundays. Still in his Jockey boxers, he started a semi-somnambular walk towards the kitchen, with a smile on his face. He'd been dreaming very nice dreams. Kunz in boxers (only) is not a sight you'd want to see first thing in the morning..or noon..or whatever time of you waking life. So when he bumped into me on the way, I was less than impressed.

"Geez man!, please don't touch me when you're practically nude. And put on some clothes, it's embarrassing having to watch you go around like this," I told him, shrinking away from his touch.

Kunz was not too happy either. The smile on his face had evaporated.

"What are you doing, sitting there in my way? Can't you move your chair a couple of centimetres to your right so that people can walk around this house without bumping into morons?" he asked and with that continued on his way to the kitchen.

I let the comment go because I was immersed in more important things - scrapping random girls on orkut, for example. I was just putting the finishing touches to one particularly good scrap when Kunz disturbed me with his skin show.

"There's nothing here to eat. I'm feeling hungry. WTF did you do with all the bananas I'd bought," Kunz shouted from the kitchen.

"There's a bag of green chilies next to the stove. Eat that for now," I replied, evading the question of what happened to the bananas.

"Hi thr, if u r intrstd in my fraanship pl add me as ur frnd. Ur foto is very butiful [:)]," Kunz was reading out my special scrap over my shoulder. I hadn't realized that he'd returned from the kitchen.

"Hey, that's personal stuff!" I told him, trying to cover the screen with my hand.

"Oh yeah! I would like to know what is so personal about an Orkut scrapbook. You are so pathetic! Hitting on girls like that on orkut - have some self-respect."

He was right, of course. But I knew just the answer to make him shut up for good.

"I know, da [*]. But what to do? Orkut is my only chance to get a girlfriend. I don't have the skills required to pataofy girls like you do. If only you'd teach me how to do it; I wouldn't have to denigrate myself doing this stuff."

That worked like a charm. He went back to bed to continue dreaming about Sona, Mona, Teena and the many other girls in his life [**] who, I'm sure, he was dreaming about before being woken up by the bump.

What woke up Kunz again was a hissing sound from the kitchen. As the smell of mustard oil wafted into Kunz's nostrils, he sat bolt upright and said, "Food."

Kunz considered the smell of mustard oil to be the official fragrance of Bengal (he maintains that the Communist Party distributes perfumes with mustard fragrance to its cadre, although a search for it on google didn't show up any results). And according to him, since Bengal is what heaven would smell like, mustard oil was the most heavenly smell on earth. Sniffing like a Labrador on the trail of a bone, Kunz made his way to the kitchen. DK had already made his world famous pulao and rajma.

"Hmm...smells divine," Kunz said. "Not like the horse-shit you get when you cook with coconut oil."

The last part of the sentence was delivered at a decibel level calculated to make sure that I heard it. No Mallu worth his drop of coconut oil could let a comment like that pass. But there were other thoughts in my mind - you see, I'd got this rather raunchy sounding girl on Messenger and she was promising me things which I'd only dreamed about till then. Mallu Pride or Raunchy Latino - that was the question.

After much deliberation, I realized that in the war between mustard oil and coconut oil, I was the last line of defence. The weight of the entire Mallu population was resting on my shoulder. Raunchy Latino could wait a few minut.... seconds.

So I made my way to the kitchen to restore hurt Mallu pride. Kunz's eyes turned towards me the moment I entered the kitchen. He was expecting a good fight and I was in a mood to give it to him.

"The next time you say anything about coconut oil, I'll fry your brains in it and feed it to the street dogs," I said.

"The dogs will cover their noses and run away."

"That's because they won't like the smell of your rotten brain, not because they don't like coconut oil."

DK was not enjoying this exchange. The only thing he cared about was lunch.

"Cut it out, guys. Are you going to eat this or not? I'm really hungry," DK said.

Kunz looked at me and said, "I'll give a reply to that after lunch."

I was more than happy to oblige. Food was more important than anything else.

Next day evening, as I was beating Kunz as usual in tennis, I couldn't help rubbing some salt into his wounds.

“You know, if you would use coconut oil instead of mustard oil, you would be a little bit better at tennis. Not better than me, of course. But a little better than the two left feet you are now."

No reply. The defeat had really got to him.

"How do you think Kerala produces such fine athletes? P T Usha didn’t win all those medals by drinking mustard oil. It’s coconut oil and fish, dear friend.”, I continued with no apparent hint of friendliness.

I was surprised that Kunz looked confused instead of angry, as if he was trying to figure out answers to some profound questions about the cosmos.

“Bengalis eat fish too, you moron”, he replied after some time.

It was then that I realized my mistake.

Thinking hard to correct my mistake I said, “Of course, you eat fish. But you cook it in mustard oil. So that screws up the fish. Besides, Bengalis eat fresh-water fish. It doesn’t have as much Omega-3 fatty acids as sea-fish”.

“That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in my entire life. Apparently eating a lot of Omega-3 fatty acid-rich sea-fish cooked in coconut oil hasn’t made you any smarter. But look at us Bengalis - Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen, both Nobel Prize winners; J C Bose and S N Bose were world-renowned scientists; India’s only Academy Award winner, Satyajit Ray, is also a Bong. How many coconut oil-using world-renowned scientists, Nobel Prize winners and Oscar awardees do you know?”

I wanted to say that it couldn’t be mustard oil that’s behind Bengalis being smart. Sardars also use mustard oil - but look at how many Santa-Banta jokes are going around. But I wasn’t sure whether Sardars used mustard oil. I didn’t want another argument to backfire and lose my face again. I made a point to check with my colleague Sardar Singh before proceeding along those lines.

That conclusively settled the debate on the court. My efforts to restore coconut oil to its exalted position had backfired.

The next day I checked with Sardar Singh about the correlation of mustard oil and intelligence of sardars. I had to be rescued from drowning in the water closet by sympathetic friends.

A week after that, my supply of coconut oil got over. Surprisingly, I didn't have the urge to buy another packet of coconut oil. Not only had I got used to mustard oil, I had (most shamefully) started liking its taste too. I now feel like a traitor, a defector who was ensnared by the enemies using pleasures that lesser mortals like myself simply couldn't resist.

So if you see me tucking into fish smothered in mustard paste and wrapped in banana leaf at "Hotel Annapoorna - Reputed Bengali Hotel" in Egmore, please show a little sympathy before you proceed to eliminate me from the face of the earth for betraying my Mallu brethren.

The Raunchy Latino turned out to be a guy.


* [For a long time after coming to Chennai, Kunz thought that the south Indian 'da' was a variation of the Bengali 'da' - a way of respectfully addressing one's elder brother. So he went around calling everyone 'da' till one day he came and asked us why he was getting nasty stares when addressing people. From then on, we started respectfully calling him 'da'.]

** [A little bit on Kunz's background here would be of immense help to you. Kunz is an alumnus of a great school in Kolkata called La Martiniere. A typical La Mars guy would have done enough to father a couple of kids before finishing school. By Kunz's age now, he would be almost living a retired life. The place where these guys took their baby steps in this direction was the playground separating La Mars Boys and La Mars Girls which, in Kunz's own words, "has seen many great rugby scrums". He now says that he was actually talking about rugby matches. I refuse to believe it because it spoils my story.]


silverine said...

Nice title...I almost gave this a miss !

Mustard is an acquired taste... and you are not alone...I know several betrayers, double-crossers, Judas, conspirators, turncoats, defectors, deserters,double agents, collaborators and quislings like you who got converted :|

g-man said...

nice title indeed (^5 @ silverine). n coconut oil rules...traitor! :P

Philip said...

silverine: I would have been terribly disappointed had you given this a miss.

I guess I deserve all those epithets! But I still do like coconut oil, if that's any compensation. :)

mathew said...

too good...i very sympathise with you in the post...i have been practically vicitimised by two tamil roomies who stare at me as if i have just added some scrapped coconut in the omlette!!;-P

and title!!

Philip said...

g-man: Ahh...what can I say in my defense? What should I do to save me from being ostracized

mathew: Thanks :D
Roomies inevitably end up changing your food habits.

g-man said...

ah, that's a pretty easy question. i shall give you my postal address. you can start by mailing me one carton of ferrero rocher every month :) then, when you get over here, we go get a coupla hundred beers and something deep fried in coconut oil :D you shall be pardoned for all your sins in your next 6.023E23 janmams

Philip said...

g-man: Hmm..I can see that somebody hasn't forgotten his high school chemistry...Avogadro number of chocolates and beers is fine. I'll start as soon as my salary gets to that level - which will be in 6.023e23 years.

Anand Chakrapani said...

Came here through silverine's blog roll. Am I glad?

Loved the part about sympathetic friends rescuing you from the swimming pool. :-)

Sorry about the Raunchy Latino turning out to be a guy!

emmanuel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philip said...

anand: Thank you :) Hope it's good enough to make you want to come back again.

Anoop said...

terrific read man,helps wen the mundane it job really gets to u [:)]

jj said...

You too Brutus? How could you?

Damn good title!

Philip said...

anoop: Glad to have been of help :)

jj: The epithets keep pouring in.. adding Brutus to the list :D

Anonymous said...

Nice one! :) Most North Indians can't get over the fact that we use the same oil applied on our hairs to cook food also. Just like Silverine, I too almost gave this a miss - considering your previous post. ;-)

How about more mirrors in your apartment? That might persuade Kunz to start wearing more clothes.

Philip said...

van Kalip: Are you kidding? Putting mirrors all over the place would mean that I'd get to see him from a few more angles. It's not going to make much difference to him.

Jyotika Prasad said...

Good one.

I personally cannot choose between the lesser of the two evils.

flaashgordon said...

have had my share of tiffs with northie roomies regding coconut oil n fish, I still swear by it ...only pbm is the adjustments due to health its sunflower oil mostly ..

Philip said...

jyo: Coconut oil must have been a real torture for you throughout those years in tvm :)

flaash: That's sad :(
I don't think fish tastes as good as it does with coconut oil.

sid said...

Philipe amazing read man . Really entertaining .Never knew the life with Kundu and co would be so colorful or is that you make it colorful ? . Just another phlipside huh ?

Karthik said...

LOL! And as to how Bongs speak English. YOu can replace all v's with 'B' and all a's with 'O' :-)

Nancy said...

Hehehe...this is hilarious. ROFL laughing stuff.

hi, am Nancy. bloghopped my way in:-P.

Thomas said...

Hey, haven't you shown this post to Kunz?? I would love to see his comment here. And hopefully, you might get to write another post about the after effect! (assuming you'll be alive) :D